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New coloring book aims to help kids name Arctic animals in Inupiaq

  • Author: Tamara Ikenberg
  • Updated: August 14, 2017
  • Published August 13, 2017

Aiviq is Inupiaq for walrus. Qavvik is wolverine. And tuttu is caribou.

Those are just a few of the Arctic animal names topping the corresponding creatures in Inupiaq artist Britt'Nee Kivliqtaruq Brower's upcoming coloring book. The English names are written under the images.

Brower's clean, uncomplicated drawings give kids plenty of space to color in the critters and create their own patterns while staying inside the lines and learning new words.

"I try to keep my drawings simple so they can use their imagination and draw in the background, the eyes," and more details, said Brower, 29, who grew up in Utqiagvik (formerly called Barrow) and currently lives in Anchorage.

Britt’Nee Kivliqtaruq Brower is working on creating a coloring book of animals and their Inupiaq names. Photographed in her Anchorage home on Aug. 4, 2017. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

She hearkened back to her childhood to help make the book an effective teaching tool.

"The first Inupiaq words we learned in elementary school were animals and the ones I included were the easiest ones that I remembered learning," she said. "A few that I picked out were common animals that were seen in Barrow."

Also populating the pages are the Arctic ground squirrel (siksrik), red fox (kayuqtuq) and bearded seal (ugruk). There are 15 animals total.

The project is being funded by Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Brower hopes the book will be published within a month. It's still being determined how it will be distributed once it's printed.

For updates on the coloring book's release and where to purchase it, visit

Brower developed the coloring book at an Alaska Humanities Forum leadership training in Anchorage last year, and explains her motivation for the project in the book's introduction: "Here in Alaska, the Inupiaq language is rarely spoken by the younger generation and those who do speak it are often not fluent. Language is our identity. If the language is gone, what do we have? This book is my contribution to efforts occurring throughout Alaska to preserve and protect Native languages."

She was also inspired by her own desire to learn more of the language for the benefit of herself and daughter Kyree, 6.

Though some Inupiaq was taught at her elementary and middle schools, and she studied it a little in college, Brower said she never got a grasp of the grammar. She also didn't get a chance to speak it at home.

"There's that disconnect and I experienced this when I was younger. … My grandma on my dad's side only spoke Inupiaq, and I only spoke English," Brower said. "My dad is the youngest of 17 and he's the only one who cannot speak fluently in Inupiaq. That affects me, that affects Kyree and that affects maybe my grandkids."

Most of the images in the coloring book were made during a challenge to create 100 drawings in 100 days. Brower posted her daily drawings on Instagram.

The challenge was issued by local artist Heather Dongoski, one of the mentors Brower enlisted at the leadership training.

"Her drawing style is very unique and refreshing. She can evoke a lot of emotion in very few strokes," Dongoski said.

A sketch of a walrus is one of the drawings that will be included in the coloring book. Britt’Nee Kivliqtaruq Brower is working on creating a coloring book of animals and their Inupiaq names. Photographed in her Anchorage home on Aug. 4, 2017. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Brower, also a painter and tattoo-artist-in-training, has made prints and greeting cards out of her library of 100 images as well.

She said the leadership training gave her the chance to return to making art after a decade focusing on her career in occupational safety and health at organizations including the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. During the training, she was required to set a personal goal and Brower selected art as her area of focus.

In addition to animals, her illustrations also incorporate qupaks, traditional decorative Inupiaq trim, into the book.

Slightly more advanced coloring skills are required to fill in the small triangles, diamonds, hourglass shapes and other qupak designs that frame every page and also turn up on walrus tusks, the necks of ringed seals, and more of the book's menagerie.

"I wanted something visually unique to our culture," Brower said. "You'll see these qupak designs on our mukluks and parkas. There are a lot of different meanings behind them. I was also encouraged to make up my own and make new meanings. That way it kind of modernizes it for today's culture."

The project also allows Brower to share something she enjoyed as a child. When she was young, some Utqiagvik grocery stores held coloring contests, Brower said.

Brower recently held a contest in which participants were asked to color in the book's brown bear (aklaq) to win a free copy of her coloring book.

"I thought it would be so cool to bring that back," Brower said.

Once, Brower's first-place coloring page of Alvin and the Chipmunks earned her free tickets to an Alvin and the Chipmunks concert in Utqiagvik, Brower said.

"I was so proud," Brower said. "A big part of what I remember growing up was looking forward to those coloring contests."

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